Millions of Cameroonians, especially youths, are impatiently expecting the annual head of state’s speech that precedes the celebration of the country’s youth day, a day highly contested by Anglophones who have been fighting for a separate state since October 2016.
The wait stems from the fact that for more than two weeks, there have been speculations concerning the whereabouts of Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, 85, who has been missing in action. Mr. Biya is expected to deliver a live speech on Saturday, February 10, 2018, directed at the youths at 8pm Cameroon time to urge the country’s impoverished and unemployed youths to continue persevering in their efforts to find work.
He will also use the occasion to point out that though the economy has not been delivering the results expected of it, it is, more because of external factors resulting from a struggling global economy and internal attacks coming from Anglophone secessionists and Boko Haram.
However, Cameroonians are still very concerned about the absence of their president. Many analysts hold that the country’s president might either be dead or his health situation might have taken a turn for the worse.
It should be noted that Mr. Biya has been having serious health issues for some time now and a source close to the ailing dictator has intimated that he has been suffering from prostrate cancer and a failing heart.
Cameroonians need confirmation about their president health. They want to be sure that Mr. Biya’s collaborators are not working behind the scenes to change the country’s constitutional order just to ensure the Betis who have been mismanaging the country for more than three decades do not wrestle power out of the hands of the real constitutional successor.
According to a source at the Presidency which elected anonymity, the Secretary General at the presidency has been holding a series of meetings with some of his collaborators who have been advising him to issue decrees that would usher in constitutional changes on Mr. Biya’s behalf. The appointment of Clement Atangana early last week as president of the constitutional council is one of the changes, many argue, are aimed at changing things to the advantage of a Beti Mafia that has been running the show for many years.
The scheduling of senatorial elections next month, our source added, was one of the moves designed by the Beti Mafia to kick out the current senate president, Marcel Nyat Njifenji, so that it could retain power even after Mr. Biya’s death.
Under the country’s current constitution, the constitutional successor is the president of the senate, Marcel Nyat Njifenji, a man many hold has played a key role in the corruption and mismanagement that have become the country’s hallmark.
Many Cameroonians want to see a new republic and they hold that if the country has to witness any significant political changes, figures like the senate president and the national assembly speaker have to disappear from the political scene.
But the doubts are continuing even when the government has been arguing that the president is alive and in good health. A few days ago, an empty presidential motorcade was mounted and made to travel to Mvogmeka just to give the impression that the president was really hale and hearty. This ruse, which did not convince many Cameroonians, caused a lot of traffic in the nation’s capital, Yaounde, a gimmick that frustrated many people in the capital city.
Some analysts are already concluding that Mr. Biya’s entourage, which is predominantly Beti, might use still images just to create an impression. A live speech by the ailing president, they argue, might reassure the population. Anything short of that will only fuel the suspicion and rumor.
But there are speculations that the Beti Mafia that is struggling to keep things under wraps might have already had a taped speech from the dying president before he slipped into a coma.
Sources close to the Unity Palace have indicated that Mr. Biya’s collaborators have been busy, working day and night just to prove that Mr. Biya is alive. They have also indicated that Mr. Biya’s entourage might put the president’s still image on the screen while broadcasting a taped speech just to prove their point.
An inside source has also said that all tricks are on the table, adding that the secretary-general at the presidency and his men are capable of manufacturing anything just to prove their point.
“They may cut off power supply across the country so as to blame everything on the country’s energy corporation. They can even blame it on technical issues resulting from CRTV’s aging equipment. These people are capable of any and everything,”our source said, arguing that from what he has seen over the last two weeks at the Unity Palace, the country’s leaders cannot be trusted.
“They behave like mercenaries. You can never think that they are Cameroonians. They don’t love this country and they are certainly going to cause a more complicated civil war if power leaves their hands,” he lamented.
“Whatever they do, the truth will always come out. Nobody is eternal. The country does not belong to Mr. Biya and it will be preposterous for anyone to think that they can manipulate everybody, every time,” he stressed.
It should be recalled that the Betis have always felt that they must continue to govern the country. They hold that since the seat of government is in Yaoundé, they deserve to run the country’s political show.
Their strong desire to head the country even after Biya’s departure has already been manifested a few times through some of their actions. In 1992 when the Social Democratic Front chairman, John FruNdi, won the presidential election, the Beti Mafia did all it could to grant the victory to Mr. Biya who has continued to run the country as his personal estate. He has been using the institutions to his advantage and his method of choice has been the appointment of only those who are loyal to him, regardless of their ages.
This week’s establishment of the constitutional council and the appointment of its members through presidential decrees has caused the rumor mills to be very busy. The presidential decrees finally established a constitutional council provided for in the 1996 constitution and appointed members of the said council.
77-year-old Clement Atangana, a legal expert of Beti extraction, who has been on retirement for more than ten years, was appointed to head the constitutional council, while other very familiar faces were appointed as members of the same council in the same decree. It should be underscored that members of the constitutional council are members of the ruling party, the CPDM, and people who are personally loyal to the country’s president and his collaborators.
The appointment of these familiar faces underscores the fact that Mr. Biya is not yet ready to give Cameroonian youths a place in today’s Cameroon. Besides marginalizing youths, Mr. Biya is still pursuing his policy of Anglophone marginalization by appointing only Francophones to head major government institutions.
It should be underscored at this point that all heads of important structures in Cameroon are Francophones despite the ongoing Anglophone crisis which was triggered by the government’s marginalization of the country’s English-speaking minority.
As Mr. Biya’s entourage works hard to deceive the population, Cameroonians, for their part, are quietly looking forward to the annual youth day speech which will either confirm or disconfirm rumors that the head of state is no more.
By Kingsley Betek in Yaounde